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Tuesday, April 29, 2003  

The friends of John Lott

Part III: Abigail Thernstrom and the Florida elections

During the infamous 2000 elections John Lott colluded with Abigail Thernstrom, a U.S. Civil Rights Commission member in misrepresenting data from the Florida polls. The official report of the committee, which found much awry with the way the elections were conducted and ballots counted, can be read on its site. The commission concluded the errors mainly impacted African-American voters.

Lott signed on to analyze the data to determine whether discrimination against African-American voters had occurred. Contrary to the commission, he concluded none had. The outcome fit in with a pattern of Lott finding fault with black Americans, but no discrimination against them that is clear in other 'research' he has done. As Atrios explains, Lott's methodology was so sloppy as to leave little doubt about his motives. He seems to have known his results before he began his task.

Lott's work for the election commission was, to put it bluntly, the most intellectually dishonest piece of work I have ever seen. I started to do a critique of it, but then noticed that it had already been done by others on the commission (Dr. Lichtman). His approaches were laughable, designed to obtain the answer he wanted. In addition to the statistical analysis that he performed, his writeup of it was even more dishonest - picking and choosing various results from various specifications. Quite literally, it was an obvious fraud.

Thernstrom and Lott cooked up a strange stew of disinformation.

Dr. Allan J. Lichtman performed professional analyses of the election data and of Lott's error-filled report. He explained the purpose of his investigation.

I have been asked by the United States Commission on Civil Rights to consider whether the rejection of ballots as invalid for the 2000 presidential election in Florida had a disparate impact on the votes cast by African-Americans. The analysis will consider all unrecorded ballots as well as the subsets of undervotes (ballots not recorded for the lack of a recognized vote) and overvotes (ballots not recorded for including more than one recognized vote).[1] The focus of analysis will be on whether African-Americans are more likely than other voters to have had their ballots invalidated, although some consideration will be given to reforms of the electoral process in Florida and elsewhere.

Dr. Lichtman reviewed data from both the Commission and from Lott's 'study.' In regard to the three most pertinent counties, he made the following findings:

As demonstrated by Charts 5, 6, and 7, the results of extreme case analysis for 90%+ black and non-black precincts confirm the findings of ecological regression analysis. For Duval County, as demonstrated by Chart 5, in precincts that were 90 percent or more black in their voter registration the overall rate of rejection was 22.1 percent, compared to a rate of 5.8 percent for precincts that were 90 percent or more non-black in their voter registration. For Miami-Dade County, as demonstrated by Chart 6, the overall rate of rejection for votes cast by blacks was an estimated 9.1 percent, compared to a rate of 3.2 percent for votes cast by non-blacks. As reflected in Chart 7, in Palm Beach County the overall rejection rate for votes cast by blacks was an estimated 16.1 percent compared to 6.2 percent in the non-black precincts.

The rest of Dr. Lichtman's expert analysis is similar. He found definite evidence of discrimination against black voters that could not be explained away by other factors, such as levels of education. Dr. Lichtman also concluded that mechanical differences in voting apparatuses likely played a role in the disenfranchisement since predominantly black precincts were most likely to have older, less reliable voting machines. The question of why that is true in itself suggests disparate impact, possibly intentional.

Meanwhile, Thernstrom and Lott produced a minority report claiming no discrimination against blacks occurred, except perhaps against black Republicans.

As described by columnist Mike Hersh in "Racism as Republican Electoral Strategy," Thernstrom's conduct during the commisssion's examination of the Florida elections was possibly based on a desire to hide discrimination against black voters by the state's Republican leadership.

Apparently Abigail Thernstrom, a GOP member of the commission, leaked the preliminary report in order to dull its impact. She appeared in the media lambasting and misrepresenting the Commission and its findings.

For example, Thernstrom appeared on the ABC's "Nightline" program, extremely well prepared to accuse her colleagues of lying and bias, while nitpicking minute details. She unconvincingly, angrily denied she'd even read the report, much less leaked it.

Such behavior obviously calls her professionalism into question.

It appears Thernstrom and Lott have quite a lot in common.

She also has a dubious history in regard to race. Like many neo-conservatives, Thernstrom claims white racism is a thing of the past. The continuing effects of state-supported and 'traditional' racism? They don't exist. According to her, the biggest problem of race in America is affirmative action because some whites might be harmed by it.

A fellow traveler, John Rosenberg at Discriminations, a blog that seems to exist to promote bigotry, echoes her position that any potential harm to whites is what matters when considering affirmative action policies.

William Bowen and Derek Bok, in their book "The Shape of the River," look at the nationwide statistics concerning admissions to selective universities. They determined that even if all selective universities used a race-blind admissions system, the probability of being admitted for a white student would go only from 25 percent to 26.2 percent.

. . .The question of whether racial preferences hurt a white student's chances of acceptance is not at all the same as asking whether racial preferences are racial discrimination, and the degree of impact on a white's students chances is not the measure of how much discrimination is involved.

Second, before taking a closer look at the Bowen/Bok argument that preferences have a trivial impact on a white student's chances, I should caution you against assuming that their numbers are correct. Two careful students of this issue, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, argue convincingly that they are not in a long review essay in the June 1999 UCLA Law Review.

It is always interesting to me how some white people can make people of color disappear like a magician doing a hand trick with a scarf.

After searching in vain for anything at Discriminations that does not fit such an interpretation, I suspect Rosenberg supports the findings of 'scientific' racists, that nonwhites, blacks particularly, are genetically inferior. Thernstrom has stopped short of making such an assertion, but such beliefs would explain her elimination of the aspirations of people of color as worthy of consideration in her work.

I could more exhaustively list friends of John Lott. However, I believe this entry, along with Part I and Part II, provides ample evidence that John, Lott, Jr. is part of a Right Wing movement determined to reshape America in anti-democratic ways.

2:36 AM